There were two “big” news in Singapore last week. The first was that of a juicy football club power struggle elevated to a formal corruption probe. The second was the announcement of a JC Merger. One of which is my alma mater, Anderson Junior College.
Yeah. Soon, the school I attended like, eons ago, would be merged with Serangoon Junior College. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering what the new name would be. Would it be some god awful portmanteau like Ang-Serang?
Without surprise, the announcement generated much criticism and debate, with more vitriolic personalities downright condemning the move as horrific government planning and a myopic approach to pedagogy. As an ex-student of one of these schools, I feel much compelled to write something. Given the JC merger is more or less cast in concrete, this is really no more than a rant. Therefore, I’m going to be very informal with my opinions and language.
1) First of all, while I still regularly meet three of my Junior College classmates, I have not stepped into AJC grounds for 24 years. In other words, I seriously do not give a **** what happens to it. I feel this way about Anderson Junior College solely because of a certain “king of the castle” personality in the school administration during my days. On the brighter side, my disposition towards AJC probably afforded me the ability to look at the JC merger a little more objectively.
2) The Ministry of Education (MOE) is receiving a lot of flak for one of the methods it used to decide which schools to merge. Geographical proximity. Without going into a protracted analysis, let me just say, alamak, who you trying to kid? You seriously think people can’t notice none of the top JCs are affected? What feels to be the case here is that the JCs to merge were firstly shortlisted, possibly by intake numbers. Thereafter, “geographical proximity” was used as one of the main criteria to decide who marries who.
3) On (2), MOE is also receiving a lot of flak for poor planning, lack of vision, etc. Personally, I don’t think these are fair accusations. Many of the JCs involved were established long ago. They were meant to cater to the nation’s education needs forecasted back then. Yes, by MOE’s own announcement, birth targets weren’t met and thus the necessity for the forthcoming JC merger. But seriously, do you prefer preparing for a target and not hitting it? Or not preparing for a target at all?
And something like birth rates. Even without all current concerns about the cost of living, jobs, immigration, etc, would there ever be complete assurance with something like birth targets?
By the way, about the newly established Eunoia Junior College. Call me g-supporter or whatever, but I buy MOE’s explanation on that. It’s also not as if the absence of this one new Junior College would change anything about the rest. Frankly, I feel Eunoia is outside of the discussion.
4) On (2) again, I think what brought about this JC merger is that same situation since the late 80s:
- You can have a humongous, lavishly funded JC next to every MRT station, all equipped with NTUC and Popular Bookstore and both Starbucks and Coffee Bean. But top Singaporean students would still ever only eye those three “ministerial” JCs. Raffles, HC, and National.
- The great, but not great with a G students would expand their lists to include a few others. According to this link, there’s a G7 in Singapore! (WTF?)
- Students with aggregates trending just below puberty ages would consider the remaining JCs with evocative names. You know, names nice to roll off the tongue. Such as the name of saints, religions, and so on. (If you’re Singaporean, you know what I mean)
- As for the rest, and assuming these still wanna go the JC route, that’s what the to-be-merged JCs are for. Or should I say, were for. Sorry to put it this way. And let me state for the record that I am aware many of these JCs had significant accomplishments. In my opinion, these JCs, including mine, were established so that students who couldn’t get into the coveted ones still have somewhere to go to. What then happened over the years, unfortunately, is intense competition from the polytechnics and from overseas. Most such students nowadays, at least those I know, would opt for a polytechnic course. Few would settle for a “less-branded,” not so impressive sounding neighbourhood Junior College.
The Real Reason for the JC Merger: Aspiration
What I’m saying here is this. The real reason for the JC merger is aspiration. Birth rates, geographical (I long to be) close to you might play a part. But the affected JCs are suffering low intake because too many students prefer the better-branded institutions.
People want better sounding academic labels, to put it simply.
To argue for the merger to be scrapped because small classes are better, etc, is also meaningless. Yes, smaller academic classes are indeed better. One to one lagi better. But seriously, do you want to go to a school where you can’t play the sport of your choice, or perform in a stage production, or join the band, because don’t have enough people leh …
I don’t. Do you?
Is there a problem with this? Is there some looming socio-political threat over Singapore? I say, yeah. Especially with people and companies clinging to academic labels decades down the road.
Is there anything we can do about it? I think so, to be honest. But this involves a paradigm shift away from academic superiority and reputation. Which would then collapse the lucrative tuition and enhancement classes industries. Which would then also deprive local politicians of one traditional banner of credentials. Is Singapore ready for this? Are Singaporean leaders prepared to make the change? Would Singaporean parents and students put themselves up for the cause?
Hell, no. Not in a hundred years.
Discuss in GP lessons, maybe lah. Talk and talk, laugh laugh a bit with tee-cher and make proclamations. But really do it? Make the sacrifice through one’s self? One’s child?
No. I’m so certain the answer is no. I bet anything the answer is no.